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Recently, WAVES got a chance to catch up with Steve Kelty, a past volunteer who spent nearly 2 months helping out the team in Lobitos, Peru earlier this year. Whether it was at swim class, facilitating the first CPR/lifeguard training, simply hanging out with the groms or cooking up a mean banana pancake breakfast, Kelty was involved on every level in Lobitos.


Like many of the WAVES volunteers, Kelty was brought to Lobitos to combine his passions of surfing, traveling and experiencing life through a unique lens. He not only brought his positive vibes and big smile, but a brand new surfboard that he shaped himself with the help of Shaper Studios. He states, “[The board was to leave something] behind, as a small token of gratitude for letting me be a part of their lives for the summer and hopefully leave a positive lasting impression that enriches their futures.” 


Read along as we get into Kelty’s story and his first hand experience as a volunteer at WAVES Lobitos.



Describe your experience at WAVES in 3 words: 
Forever – Life – Changing 


My inherent love for the ocean and surfing led me to research Peru when I first decided I was going to be taking a break from the rat race to explore new parts of the world. I’ve always heard how Peru had incredible surf and was known as the land of the lefts.  Being a goofy-footer, I wanted to investigate.  


As part of my decision-making criteria I wanted to find somewhere that had an organization or program that would allow me to volunteer my time and energy while traveling so I wasn’t the sole benefactor of this new experience. So basically I searched peru + surf + volunteer and through the magic of these here interwebs I found WAVES. (Great SEO WAVES team!)


A program that worked with local youth through education, environmental sustainability programs, surfing, entrepreneurship and FUN!


I found a series of testimonials and short video edits that portrayed what looked to be EXACTLY what I was searching for.  A program that worked with local youth through education, environmental sustainability programs, surfing, entrepreneurship and FUN! I couldn’t believe it, so I immediately applied to volunteer and less than a week later I was accepted to join the efforts in Peru and I was on my way.



What’s a day in the life of a WAVES Volunteer?
Surf, create, rinse, repeat 🙂
6am – wake up and rip a cup of coffee and head down for a surf at the point and try to catch the 7 before 7. (7 waves before 7am)
8am – head back to Wavesland and make bfast with the rest of the volunteer crew – usually fresh fruit smoothies and some oatmeal unless it was the weekend then I’d whip up my famous banana pancakes for the squad.
9am – Noon – head to the Primavera to hang with the kids and depending what the schedule was we would be either teaching swim lessons, surfing, arts & crafts, or some type of environmental education with the little ones.. 
12-2pm – We would usually go sneak in an hour surf session and then head for some fresh ceviche or menu del dia at one of the local restaurants in Lobitos. 
 2-5pm – Typically would be english classes or anything special we volunteers wanted to coordinate. Our group was fortunate enough to be there to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of WAVES in Peru so we were doing a lot of Arts & Crafts to make decorations or masks for the kids to have for a skit they were creating for the event with the local teachers from the community.
5pm-7pm on – Head for an evening surf to catch glassy waves with the older kids from the WAVES program and volunteer crew as the wind typically died down in the late hours for perfect waves all the while the most beautiful sunset was our backdrop each night – truly some of my favorite memories. 



Besides volunteering, what other activities can future volunteers expect to do while visiting Lobitos?

Obviously surfing, lots of surfing. But I’m talking about surfing some of the best waves in Peru, hands down. Fishing with the locals and making the most fresh and delicious ceviche you’ve ever tasted. Exploring sea caves, witnessing stunning sunsets daily, playing soccer with the local kids, creating art, making music, doing yoga, and trying to great local food. Surprisingly enough there are a lot of great restaurants and food options for such an intimate place. 


Getting to really immerse yourself into a community like Lobitos is a pretty special thing.  For someone who likes to create things with friends, there was a lot of opportunity to make art, music, and just plain be inspired.  The locals here are some really talented artists and it was amazing to hang with them and create. My love of photography really flourished in Lobitos because it’s just the type of place that worked well with my eye… This was one of the coolest parts for me outside of the volunteering aspect of the WAVES program.



Can you share one story that stands out to you / you think about today during your experience in Peru?

That’s such a tough one, I have so many wonderful things that stick with me daily after leaving Lobitos.


One story that really impacted me deeply as well as the local community was an incident that involved a 14-yr old girl who was visiting Lobitos from a neighboring town for the weekend with her family who got in a very bad situation with a rip current at one of the local surf spots.  She wasn’t used to the beach where she was swimming and eventually got sucked out to sea and drowned. It was an incident that likely could have been prevented had the proper protocol measures been put in place. 


After the incident the WAVES team decided to put together a workshop inviting the local surfers, authority figures in the community, and any of the youth in the program that wanted to learn First Responder and CPR skills. I was a life guard for 10 years throughout my youth and college years at Arizona State University.  It was so amazing to be able to provide the knowledge and experience I had built to a community who needed it.



Being a part of something like this that will impact the community long after we are there is pretty special.


Together with my fellow volunteers and leadership of the WAVES program we applied new standards to beach safety and rescue. We had about 15-20 people show up who now were equiped with the knowledge to hopefully prevent something tragic like this from happening again.


The next week the mayor of Lobitos provided funding for better pay for Lifeguards as a necessary job to keep their beaches and community safe. They also implemented red, yellow, and green flag warnings on beaches to let people know the dangers of the rip currents daily.  


Being a part of something like this that will impact the community long after we are there is pretty special. The community lives and thrives off the beaches and water so any part to help improve the longevity and safety is pretty all-time for me.



Based on your experience, what kind of affect does WAVES have on the local community? How do you feel it is helping Lobitos grow?

WAVES has given an outlet for these kids to think about the world and their community in a different way by exposing them to different things they otherwise might not have been exposed to.  Public sanitation and environmental sustainability are a real challenge across South America and Lobitos is no different.  By arming these young minds with the tools of simple conservation, recycling, and pride in your community they can affect the place where they live for years to come and maybe even be the solution to some of the challenges being faced currently.


I also think that WAVES is bringing in some really wonderful people who genuinely care and become deeply invested to the people and community.  Improving ones quality of life is pretty subjective and I think the quality of life in Lobitos is pretty high in terms of family values, love, and community.  By WAVES bringing tourist and volunteers to the community of Lobitos it is hopefully bringing increased revenue into the community restaurants, surf shops, hotels, and other artisan small businesses that can prosper from this new publicity. 



What kind of impact has WAVES made on personally?

For me, WAVES reminded me of the simple things in life that really matter.  This experience came at an interesting time for me personally in my life where I was in a big transition between major life-decisions, career, travel, and all the crazy unnecessary stresses we like to throw on ourselves. Being able to step away and focus all my energy positively on youth and this community was so refreshing.


Quality of life is all in the eye of the beholder and the WAVES/ the kids really taught me so much about simplicity and staying present. It also taught me the importance of keeping things light and with the flow of life. Lobitos/Peruvian time is kind of it’s own thing which is such a nice departure from the craziness of the US timetable. 🙂


The community of Lobitos is thriving with the most creative, driven, and friendly people anywhere I’ve been. I’m happy to say these incredible individuals will be my friends for the rest of my life.. and for that I am forever grateful this experience brought us together.


The friends I was fortunate to have made who live in Lobitos all inspired me to continue tapping into my creative side which helps keep you balanced in a very unbalanced world.  The community of Lobitos is thriving with the most creative, driven, and friendly people anywhere I’ve been. I’m happy to say these incredible individuals will be my friends for the rest of my life.. and for that I am forever grateful this experience brought us together.


Overall, It has ignited my passion to work with youth once again in my local community.  I grew up working at youth sports camps, teaching swim lessons, etc. and it was the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I fully intend to continue finding ways to reach out and support my local community through environmental or youth outreach programs. They are our future and we need to give them every chance to succeed by making them feel special, supported, and inspired.  


MUCHAS GRACIAS to this legendary artist/man/volunteer for sharing his story and making an impact on the community of Lobitos. Also WAVES appreciates the board donation from Shaper Studios along with Lucky Bastard Co who laced him up with lip balms, stickers, and candles that he passed out along the way. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Kelty on Instagram or visit our Volunteer Surf Trip page to see how you can have a life changing experience just like Kelty’s.





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